Seville during Semana Santa is an experience to think long and hard about with kids. Or as Kim Jones and her family recently discovered, you could just think about choosing a hotel with a great view, well clear of the crowded streets.
Cathedral bells pealing in the distance. The swift clip-clopping of a horse and carriage on the sunny streets below. Sitting on our room terrace at the stunning five-star luxe Hotel Alfonso XIII in sunny Seville with the historic city sprawling below us was like being transported back in time to a Golden Age.
This grand, opulent and historic hotel is a well-known landmark in the city and it’s an experience just to pop in for a cocktail and tick it off your travel bucket list. But to stay here is next level!
Built by King Alfonso XIII specifically to be the finest hotel in Europe, this Grand Dame first swung open its doors in 1929 to welcome dignitaries visiting the city for the Ibero-Americano Expo.
Since then the hotel has been the haunt of many a royal – including Prince Rainier and Princess Grace Of Monaco, as well as Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Other famous faces through the ages who’ve graced the gorgeousness of the place? Only Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn and Rita Hayworth! And more recently, celebrity-spotters could have caught a glimpse of Brad Pitt and Shakira here: not together, I hasten to add.
The most famous hotel in Seville with very good reason
However, you can expect to be wowed not only by the guest-list but by every inch of the place. The wonder starts as soon as you enter its impressive arched lobby. Then it continues as you climb the grand square staircase up three floors, surrounded by colourful tiled walls.
You’ll find a blend of Moorish, Castilian and traditional Andalucian design everywhere you look.
The polished tiled floors with geometric inlays lie beneath carved wooden ceilings. There are intricate mosaic panels and ornamental plasterwork. You’ll see painted cherub frescoes hung with heavy Moroccan lamps or Bohemian crystal chandeliers. In fact, every inch of this hotel has attention to detail writ large and no corner is left untouched by craftsmanship.
Fortunately, the building’s façade and interior are both protected. So, apart from permitted improvement and upkeep, this sumptuous historic hotel will remain unchanged.
Though the stairs are definitely worth a climb, don’t miss a trip in the original lift, either. It’s hidden behind ornate heavy wooden doors with golden handles, so you challenge kids to find it!
Rooms and suites at the hotel come in all shapes and sizes and several can accommodate extra beds for children. Alternatively, adjoining rooms are also available for larger families.
Choose a room with a view, any view you like
You can even choose your view here. So you can decide to overlook the hotel’s immaculate palm-fronted gardens or the tiled inner courtyard around which the hotel was built or just remarkable Seville itself.
Our top floor room had both city and garden views as well as a terrace furnished with sun loungers. No sooner had we settled in, than a knock at the door announced the arrival of a complimentary chilled bottle of cava and platter of fresh fruit. Perfect to settle down with on said loungers. The calm was only interrupted by distant chatter below us and the screeches of parakeets chasing each other across the city skies. We could happily cope with that!
Bedrooms are furnished with antique tables, marble-topped sideboards and three-tiered crystal ceiling lamps. Our stunning bathroom still had its original striped white and copper-saturated Lusterware tiles, along with plush robes and slippers for guest use. On a side note, the thoughtful turn-down service places your slippers at your bedside so your feet don’t feel the chill of the marble floor in the morning. Although in famously hot Seville a cool floor is probably a welcome relief in high summer.
Hotel Alfonso XIII insists all guests eat like kings
Breakfast at the hotel is a real treat, served in the gorgeous San Fernando dining room which overlooks the courtyard patio. As well as the usual bacon, sausages and eggs cooked to order, there are also cereals, yogurts, fruits and nuts, cold meats, smoked fish, pickles, salads and all sorts of garnishes. Those with a sweet tooth will like the cakes and doughnuts aplenty or local specialities like pastel de higosy (fig cake) and Tarta de Santiago (Spanish almond cake). Alternatively you could just go for sticky crepes or pancakes soaked in chocolate sauce, strawberry or caramel syrup.
San Fernando serves up fine-dining in the evening, and you shouldn’t miss the chance to enjoy a pre-meal cocktail at the Art-Deco Bar Americano. We can see why it was Ernest Hemingway’s place of choice on his visits to Seville.
However, we chose to eat at the hotel’s outdoor terrace restaurant, Ena Sevilla. Well, when there’s a chance to dine alfresco on a sultry spring evening, why wouldn’t we? Of course, tapas is on the menu and our set meal included Iberian ham croquettes, speciality potato salad with free-range egg and shrimps, seared squid with sweet potato puree, leek confit and squid ink plus creme brûlée with rosemary and lemon for dessert. Good to know that the kitchen are happy to adapt meals for children.
Gaze over Seville and Spain’s largest Semana Santa
Ena overlooks the hotel garden and city centre and as we were lucky enough to be staying at the start of Holy Week we had ringside seats to one of the remarkable processions which make Seville’s Semana Santa celebrations the largest in Spain.
From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, 10s of 1000s of visitors line the city streets at night to watch processions of hooded Nazarenos, and floats carrying huge, heavy statues of Christ or the Virgin Mary borne on the shoulders of costaleros (almost always strong, young men). If you miss Semana Santa you can often see costaleros doing practice runs throughout the year in Seville.
Each of the city’s churches has its own pasos and a designated day and time during Holy Week when it’s carried to the cathedral and back again. Processions can take several hours, so it’s back-breaking work and kids might find the sinister looking Nazarenos a little frightening. Although they soften that by handing out sweets and holy cards along the route. All this high drama is accompanied by brass bands playing, solemn drums and ear-piercing trumpets. And we had the best seat in the house!
Don’t forget to explore the rest of the city too
Hotel Alfonso XIII is also just a short walk from Seville Cathedral – the largest in Europe. The Giralda bell tower is nearby too, worth a visit for the views and the strange story of why it has no stairs, only ramps, you can get kids to guess. However, the most unmissable of all is the spectacular Real Alcazar. Although if younger tourists just want to run wild, Parque de Maria Luisa is a short walk away and the dramatic Plaza de Espana is close too.
After a day exploring in sizzling Seville, the hotel pool is a perfect spot to cool down. Set amidst the garden’s palm trees with a stunning view of the hotel to gaze up at, it also makes the perfect spot to settle back on a lounger while the sun goes down.
How to plan a family holiday in Seville
How to get there
Direct UK flights to Seville take from 2 hours, 40 minutes
Where to stay
Hotel Alfonso XIII, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Seville
Premium Suite with city view, 2 adults and 2 children, from £815 per night